The Phillies signed Chase Utley to a two-year, $27 million contract extension last Thursday. It was received with muted enthusiasm, something one normally wouldn’t expect when the franchise’s cornerstone player is all but guaranteed to play out the remainder of his career in Phillies pinstripes. The concerns were legitimate, though: keeping Utley meant not trading him, which meant not getting valuable prospects to bolster one of the league’s weaker Minor League systems. Though committing to Utley for only two years is about as risk-free as it gets, the contract will go through his age 35-36 seasons, and Utley has a rather thick medical file. Between a torn thumb ligament in 2010, patellar tendinitis in 2011, patellar chondromalacia in 2012, and a ribcage injury this year, Utley has only been able to play in 390 of a possible 605 games (64 percent) dating back to the start of the 2010 season.
What Utley has shown this year, though, is that when he is healthy and able to consistently take the field as close to 100 percent as he gets, he still ranks among the games best players at his position. Considering the issues the Phillies face at many key positions going forward (catcher, third base, right field, bullpen, just to name a few) and the fact that there aren’t any Major League-caliber prospects in the system, Utley’s remarkably good 2013 campaign is a breath of fresh air and bodes well for the near future.